North American Swallowtails Tour
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Species Hierarchy 


Species Info:

This lifeform is found south of the Mason Dixon line in North America. This lifeform is scarce.

Zebra Swallowtail (Graphium marcellus) is found widely in the southeastern United States from Missouri to Florida. There are records as far north as Canada and as far west as Texas. There are numerous forms, and the taxonomy of these forms is very complex. However, it can be broadly stated that the spring forms are smaller, and the summer forms (frequently referred to as lecontei) are larger.

Graphium genus of swallowtail butterflies can be roughly divided into two main groups of butterflies.  There are species with long narrow tails; there are species with no tails at all.  In the Oriental region and Indo-Australian region,  the long tailed Graphium are typically divided into subgenera such as Pathysa and Pazala.  In these regions, some of the non-tailed and short-tailed species in this genus retain the name of Graphium and others are placed in genera such as Paranticopsis and Meandrusa.  In the New World, some authors place the long-tailed species into the genus Eurytides; others place all the species in the genus Eurytides.  About 150 different named species and subspecies in this interesting genus are shown.

Graphium marcellus group text is based on the older Rothschild and Jordan revision of the New World Papilionidae. Changes based on the D'Almeida listing have been noted. Also included are changes based on various articles. These changes are noted to comply with the taxonomy as published in 2004 by Gerardo Lamas in his checklist of Neotropical Lepidoptera. The Rothschild and Jordan text as modified by D'Almeida has been retained because for many years it was the only good source of information on this group. Many serious Neotropical Papilionidae collections in the world are based on the Rothschild and Jordan organization.

Graphium marcellus group contains the following ten species (an * indicates that this species is pictured):

   SPECIES                       LOCATION

   Graphium marcellus*           Southeast and south USA
   Graphium marcellinus*         Jamaica
   Graphium celadon              Ubá
   Graphium zonaria*             Haiti
   Graphium philolaus*           Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras
   Graphium xanticles*           Panama
   Graphium obertheuri           Honduras
   Graphium arcesilaus           Venezuela and Colombia
         = anaxilaus
   Graphium epidaus*             Central America
   Graphium bellerophon*         Brazil

Gerardo Lamas in his 2004 checklist of the Neotropical Lepidoptera made several changes to the above. He changed the genus name to Protographium; moved G. bellerophon from this group to the genus Eurytides; changed G. obertheuri to a hybrid between G. agesilaus and G. philolaus; and changed the name of G. arcesilaus to G. anaxilaus.

Family Papilionidae (Swallowtails), Papilio family, contains about five hundred and fifty different species with perhaps a new species still being discovered every two or three years. Many species are sexually dimorphic in that the females do not look like the males. A common example of this is the Tiger Swallowtail of North America where the males are always yellow and black and the females can be either yellow and black or occasionally a blue color.

Swallowtails are usually medium to large species and strong fliers. They are unusual in that the adults have six fully developed legs. Many newer families of butterflies have only four well-developed legs with the front two legs being very underdeveloped.

Butterfly scientists are attracted to this group, and high prices are paid for the largest and the rarest kinds. Most of the species are bred locally on a hobby-business basis to fill the demand.

The Queen Alexander might be extinct. Although this species has been protected, the damage seems to have been done by land clearing projects which took away its natural habitat. The number of specimens in collections seems to be so small that collectors cannot be blamed for this extinction. There are probably less than ten collections in the United States that have over five hundred different species of Papilionidae.

Butterflies and Moths (Order Lepidoptera) are a group of insects with four large wings. They go through various life cycles including eggs, caterpillar (larvae), pupae, and adult. Most butterflies and moths feed as adults, but primarily do most of their growing in the larval or caterpillar stage. Also, most species are restricted to feeding as caterpillars upon a unique set of plants. In this pairing of insects to plants, there arises a unique plant population control system. When one plant species becomes too common, specific pests to that species also become more common and thus prevent the further spreading of that particular plant species.

Although most people think of the Lepidoptera as two different groups: butterflies and moths, technically, the concept is not valid.

Some families, such as Silk Moths (Saturnidae) and Hawk Moths (Sphingidae), are clearly moths. Other families, such as Swallowtail Butterflies (Papilionidae), are clearly butterflies, However, several families exhibit characteristics that appear to be neither moths nor butterflies. For example: the Castnia Moths of South America are frequently placed in the Skipper Family (Hesperidae). The Sunset Moths (Uranidae) have long narrow antennae and fly during the day.

Note: Numerous museums and biologists have loaned specimens to be photographed for this project.

Insects (Class Insecta) are the most successful animals on Earth if success is measured by the number of species or the total number of living organisms. This class contains more than a million species, of which North America has approximately 100,000.

Insects have an exoskeleton. The body is divided into three parts. The foremost part, the head, usually bears two antennae. The middle part, the thorax, has six legs and usually four wings. The last part, the abdomen, is used for breathing and reproduction.

Although different taxonomists divide the insects differently, about thirty-five different orders are included in most of the systems.

The following abbreviated list identifies some common orders of the many different orders of insects discussed herein:

   Odonata:      Dragon and Damsel Flies
   Orthoptera:   Grasshoppers and Mantids
   Homoptera:    Cicadas and Misc. Hoppers
   Diptera:      Flies and Mosquitoes
   Hymenoptera:  Ants, Wasps, and Bees
   Lepidoptera:  Butterflies and Moths
   Coleoptera:   Beetles

Jointed Legged Animals (Phylum Arthropoda) make up the largest phylum. There are probably more than one million different species of arthropods known to science. It is also the most successful animal phylum in terms of the total number of living organisms.

Butterflies, beetles, grasshoppers, various insects, spiders, and crabs are well-known arthropods.

The phylum is usually broken into the following five main classes:

   Arachnida:      Spiders and Scorpions
   Crustacea:      Crabs and Crayfish
   Chilopoda:      Centipedes
   Diplopoda:      Millipedes
   Insecta:        Insects

There are several other "rare" classes in the arthropods that should be mentioned. A more formal list is as follows:

   Sub Phylum Chelicerata

     C. Arachnida:      Spiders and scorpions
     C. Pycnogonida:    Sea spiders (500 species)
     C. Merostomata:    Mostly fossil species

   Sub Phylum Mandibulata

     C. Crustacea:      Crabs and crayfish
   Myriapod Group

     C. Chilopoda:      Centipedes
     C. Diplopoda:      Millipedes
     C. Pauropoda:      Tiny millipede-like
     C. Symphyla:       Garden centipedes

   Insect Group

     C. Insecta:        Insects

The above list does not include some extinct classes of Arthropods such as the Trilobites.

Animal Kingdom contains numerous organisms that feed on other animals or plants. Included in the animal kingdom are the lower marine invertebrates such as sponges and corals, the jointed legged animals such as insects and spiders, and the backboned animals such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.


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